Last month’s triple homicide in Boston, the first in a decade, was a shock in a city that prides itself on the “Boston miracle,” a drastic reduction in homicides since 1990, says the New York Times. There have been 53 homicides in Boston this year, ahead of the 39 total for all of last year. The high-water mark was 152 in 1990. An informal survey of police departments in 25 large cities shows some other trouble spots. Homicides have jumped this year in 10 cities, including Boston, Denver, Detroit, and Los Angeles, particularly killings by young people. Some cities whose murder rates are holding steady belie an underlying youth surge. So far this year, 21 juveniles have been killed in Washington, up from 12 for all of 2003.
Police and criminologists worry that these patches of youth violence hint of something not seen since the crack cocaine epidemic in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. “I am concerned that we are going to see a major increase in youth homicides,” said Delbert Elliott of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado. Reasons are likely to include a growing youth population, shifts in police efforts, cutbacks in spending for after-school programs, and the persistence of gang activity. Elliott said the police in many cities got guns out of the hands of many young people, not in changing other teenage behavior. Now, police may be shifting their attention to other areas, setting the stage for more shootings.